Soldier held in fatal Okinawa accident has bond hearing
January 20, 2010
NAHA, Okinawa — A U.S. soldier charged in a fatal traffic crash denied Monday knowing he struck someone with his car when he left the scene early in the morning of Nov. 7.
During a bond hearing in Naha District Court, Staff Sgt. Clyde A. Gunn admitted hitting something just before dawn, but he said he did not know he struck a 67-year-old Okinawa man who was found dead in bushes on the side of the road 12 hours later.
“Suddenly something impacted the windshield of the car,” he said, reading a prepared statement before Judge Toru Miyao. “I stopped the car, got out, and looked at the windshield’s left side.”
Gunn said he kept his headlights on and walked down the road about 20 meters but saw nothing.
“If there was someone in need of aid, I would have rendered aid,” the Special Forces combat medic said. “If I had known that I had caused an accident, I would have reported it to the police. I still do not know what happened.”
Gunn is accused of hitting Masakazu Hokama, of Yomitan, at about 5:50 a.m. on a village road near Torii Station. Hokama’s neck was broken.
Monday’s hearing was held after a motion by Gunn’s laywer appealing the court’s refusal to grant Gunn bond and allowing him to be transferred from the Naha Detention Center to military custody.
Defense attorney Toshimitsu Takaesu called Gunn being held at the detention center “groundless and unnecessary.”
Judge Miyao countered by saying the soldier could destroy evidence.
“Also, judging from the facts that the suspect consistently rejects requests by investigation authorities to appear for questioning, there are reasonable and probable causes to suspect that the suspect might fly back to the United States,” he said.
Takaesu argued the reasons were unsupported.
“My client had been detained at Naha Detention Center,” he said. “Besides, prior to that, while he was on military base, he was under military custody. There was never any fear of flight.”
Takaesu said that a possibility of Gunn destroying evidence was also groundless.
“There was no passenger at the time and there was no witness, therefore, there is no way for him to destroy evidence,” he said.
The judge took Takaesu’s request under advisement. Court officials did not indicate when he would rule on the bond issue.
Gunn has been indicted on one charge of vehicular homicide. Additional charges considered by police are failing to render aid and failing to report an accident. The initial 10-day period for questioning Gunn on the additional charges ends Wednesday, but the prosecution can request an additional 10 days.